Sugar is in everything.
Natural sugars can be found in milk, fruits, vegetables, and grains. Added sugars can be found in just about everything else. From your favorite cookies, ice cream, juices, and sodas, you will find these products have been refined and contained a lot of added sugars.
What are added sugars? Added sugars are sugars and other sweeteners that are added to foods during processing, preparation, and at the table. Truth is, sugar is beyond your every day table or granulated sugar. Sugar includes everything from honey and syrup to artificial sweeteners like Splenda and Stevia.
Over the years, we have seen a steady increase in the use of added sugar. An estimated 75% of the packaged foods in the United States contain sweeteners, mostly added sugars. Do you know what products accounted for the biggest increase?
Soft drinks and fruit drinks.
The average consumer consumes at least 30 teaspoons or 120g of sugar per day. Do you know how much sugar is recommended on a 2000-calorie diet? 6 teaspoons or 24g of sugar per day.
While 30 teaspoons seems outrageous and impossible, it’s not. Let us ask you this, how many people do you know have been diagnosed with or are currently being treated for Type 2 diabetes? As much as we may not want to admit it, the fact is, there is a direct correlation between the development of health-related chronic diseases and our daily nutrition and lifestyle habits. We’ve seen the number of American’s who are overweight/obese climb to 1/3 of our population–3 out of 4 men are overweight. 8 out of 10 (82% to be exact) African American women are obese (not overweight). As of 2012, according to the American Diabetes Association, 1.4 million Americans are diagnosed with diabetes every year. The numbers are steadily rising.
But, there is something you can do. Remember, living a healthier lifestyle is about variety, moderation, and balance.
These statistics are not to scare you away from eating sugar. What we hope is that this information gives you great pause to look at your nutrition and daily lifestyle habits and begin making some simple, small changes on a daily basis.
Because sugar is in everything, we want to give you 5 tips that will help you to reduce your intake of added sugars:
Drink more water. Drink less sugary beverages. By drinking less sodas, sports drinks, energy drinks, flavored coffee drinks, and juices, you can reduce your intake of added sugar. The goal is to get more of your food and energy (fuel) from food. Save those empty calories for foods that will provide you with important nutrients like fiber, protein, and good carbs.
Use less table sugar. Are you adding sugar to your cereals? What about your coffee? These are small things that will make a big difference. Instead of using 3-4 tsp of sugar in your coffee, scale it back to 1 or 2. The common struggle is between your mind and your taste buds. If you train your mind, your taste buds will follow. Yes, it’s a gradual process but remember, your health matters.
Eat fruit for dessert. Instead of indulging in your favorite ice cream and cake combo or those cookies and milk, opt for fruit instead. Remember, the body needs sugar. It’s ok to want to enjoy something sweet. However, if you replace those empty calories from those desserts and opt for fruit instead, you are not only satisfying the “sweet tooth,” you are providing your body with additional nutrients, vitamins, and minerals it needs. That doesn’t mean you can’t indulge in sweet treats, it just means you need to indulge less often. (MUCH LESS…WE MEAN SERIOUSLY…..WAY LESS!)
Read the Nutritional Facts Label. Opt for products that included fewer added sugars. A good rule of thumb is to find products that include < 10g of sugar per serving. By using this as a guide, it creates an internal red flag for you to look more closely at a product if it exceeds 10g of sugar.
Read the Ingredients List. As we stated before, you want to get into the habit of reading the nutritional facts label, including the ingredients list. Whether the product is listed as an organic product or it’s one of your old time favorites, read the ingredients list to make sure, #1, you can read everything on the list. #2, you can find out if there are added sugars in the product.
Other names for sugar include: barley malt, beet sugar, brown sugar, buttered syrup, cane-juice crystals, cane sugar, caramel, carob syrup, corn syrup, corn syrup solids, date sugar, dextran, dextrose, diatase, diastatic malt, ethyl maltol, fructose, fruit juice, fruit juice concentrate, glucose, glucose solids, golden sugar, golden syrup, grape sugar, high-fructose corn syrup, honey, invert sugar, lactose, malt syrup, maltodextrin, maltose, mannitol, molasses, raw sugar, refiner’s syrup, sorbitol, sorghum syrup, sucrose, sugar, turbinado sugar, yellow sugar.
Eric and Maleka Beal are health coaches and co-founders of BetterChoices, a health & wellness company and social community focused on educating, advocating, and promoting better health and wellness through lifestyle, nutrition, and fitness education.